Committee: Hélène Landemore, Karuna Mantena, Seyla Benhabib (Chair).
Intellectual engagements with activist and marginalized political thought traditionally are framed in terms of increasing particularity; the mode of argument is one of tearing down unjustified appeals to idealizations and universals. This dissertation, on the other hand, is a reconstruction of the ways that the ideal is a vital element in the practice and conceptual underpinnings of activist political thought. I argue that deployments of the ideal are a necessary part of political practice and that an overly restrictive focus on non-ideal theory risks destroying opportunities for political possibility. Using resources from feminist, queer, indigenous, and Black political thought, I argue for the political importance of idealizations of concepts of truth, hope, and the past. I put forth an iterative view of idealization, where the connection to the antecedent concept is both important and explicitly exceeded by the agential use of the concept in the current moment. This argument foregrounds agency, both as a part of political activity and as the necessary element in understanding the deployment of concepts for political purposes.
Image from the zine Wild Honey Pie, issue #9. Photo by Rebecca Traber.